CAM Use: Change across Cancer Treatment and Impact on Stress, Mood, and Quality of Life

Saturday, 26 July 2014: 8:50 AM

Duck-Hee Kang, PhD, RN, FAAN
School of Nursing, Center for Nursing Research, University of Texas at Houston, School of Nursing, Houston, TX
Traci McArdle, RN, BSN
University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, Birmingham, AL


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use has been substantial in healthy and sick populations, but changes in CAM use, reasons for and impact of CAM use need further investigation. The purposes of this study were to determine if CAM use changes over cancer treatment period, why a certain type of CAM was selected, how satisfied users were, and if CAM use influenced the perception of stress, mood, and quality of life (QOL) in women with breast cancer.


Seventy seven women newly diagnosed with breast cancer were recruited from a comprehensive cancer center. Data were collected three times across cancer treatment: shortly after diagnosis before adjuvant therapy (baseline), 2 months after, and 6 months after the start of adjuvant therapy. The reliable and valid instruments were used: Impact of Event Scale (stress), Profile of Mood State (mood), Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast Cancer (QOL), and CAM Questionnaire (frequency, duration, satisfaction, and reason for using CAM).


Participants were relatively well-educated Caucasian women with the mean age of 52.4 receiving various types of cancer treatment. Seventy five out of 77 participants used some type of CAM at baseline. The average number of CAM use was 6.0 with the range of 0-23 per person. Typically CAM use started before cancer diagnosis and continued across cancer treatment in a stable manner. Types of CAM used remained quite stable: Top 5 common CAMs remained same over time: prayer (88.3%), multivitamin use (58.4%), massage (42.9%), vitamin E (41.6%), and vitamin C (40.3%). Next level common CAMs included music, meditation, green tea, chiropractic care, and vitamin A at baseline with slight changes across cancer treatment period. Prayer induced the highest level of satisfaction, followed by meditation, music, and vitamin uses. Prayer, meditation, music, and massage were used mostly to have a feeling of control over life, whereas vitamins were used to improve the immune system. Stress, mood disturbance, and QOL all declined significantly over time, p <.001-.04, but the number of CAM use was unrelated to these variables or to the type of cancer adjuvant therapy.


Nearly all women diagnosed with breast cancer used some type of CAM, although the number of CAM use differed among participants. Prayer was most commonly used and seemed to provide a high level of satisfaction. Although CAM use did not differ across cancer treatment and did not impact perceived stress, mood, or QOL, long-term CAM use and potential benefits of CAM use on other health outcomes need to be investigated using biobehavioral approaches.